Saturday, June 24, 2017

Remembering Pauline Manaka

Irvine -- The tragic and unexpected passing this past Sunday (18 June 2017) of my long-term colleague and good friend cut short the amazing life of a librarian who reached the pinnacle of her profession (by serving on the Council of the American Library Association) and more importantly, became a strong voice for social justice. 

Hailing from Pretoria, South Africa, Pauline Manaka (photographed) was a student Fulbrighter, in the late 1970s, arguably the first to enter library school at Atlanta University in Atlanta, Georgia, on such a prestigious grant given by the U.S. to a national of South Africa.  She came to Atlanta at a time where her homeland was trapped in the Apartheid era.  In joining the library profession, she followed in the pioneering steps of her uncle, Seth Manaka, who would be the first black librarian and later library director in the country, honored at his retirement in 2015 with his own festschrift.

Moving to Orange County by 1989, Pauline lessened my burden as a social sciences bibliographer by taking on the responsibilities for selecting in sociology and anthropology. She later also took on Women Studies when another librarian left.  In the 28 years I've known her, she was the voice on conscience as the library and the university took on the formidable challenge of diversifying its staff as well as its collections.

She kept her commitment to the struggles of her homeland.  In 1994 (April 24) she appeared as a committed  African National Congress member on my KUCI Subversity Show to talk about her organizing work among the South African diaspora in southern California for a historic post-Apartheid national election.  She was also quoted in a Los Angeles Times article.

She kept her interest in and her ties with South Africa, teaching in Anthropology a UCI class for many years on South Africa.  She also served as library liaison to the area Model United Nations.

She was active also in the librarians and lecturers union, UC-AFT.  Union president Andrew Tonkovich in fact wrote a very warm profile of her in Coast Magazine in January 2015.

It is fortunate that her voice will not be silenced, literally, since she provided the "clear narration" (as I wrote in a review in the 9 May 2002 OC Weekly) for UCI PhD student and Student Workers Union organizer Marty Otanez's  (he's now a professor in anthropology at University of Colorado, Denver) pioneering documentary short (with Michelle Otanez) on Big Tobacco, "Thangata: Social Bondage and Big Tobacco in Malawi".

In her narration, Pauline indicted the World Bank for causing economic instability in Malawi, described the slave trade,  and called out U.S. tobacco firms for the exploitation of labor in the growing of tobacco and its marketing to women and children in Malwai and other developing countries. That short film is available free online, where you can hear Pauline's lyrical voice.

She was also interviewed with two of her colleagues in an oral history video for the UCI Libraries' 50th anniversary.

I trust her adult son, Lesetja, a budding filmmaker, will emerge from the pain of losing his mother so suddenly, and take his own path, while recognizing his mom's pioneering role in America. -- Daniel C. Tsang.

Sepia-toned photos of Pauline Manaka taken in 2015. © Copyright Daniel C. Tsang.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Asian Pacific Film Fest Expands to OC

Buena Park -  The Los Angeles Asian Pacific Film Festival tonight expands to Orange County, with a lineup of winning films as well as a special series on films from Vietnam, in association with the Viet Film Festival.

Opening the OC portion of the Asian Pacific Film Festival is OC-raised Ham Tran, who directs a comedic look at a workplace affair.  "She's the Boss" (2017) features two co-workers (Miu Le and Anh Do) whose secret relationship risks compromising their jobs.  The film screens tonight at the new Buena Park CGV, at 8 pm.

Other Vietnam films are on Saturday, May 6, 2017: "Father and Son" (Luong Dinh Hung, Dir., 2016) about a young boy and his father living in a mountainous area (4:30 pm); and "Jackpot" (Dustin Nguyen, Dir., 2015), about a middle-age con artist who meets a lottery-ticket hawker (7 p.m.).

On May 11, at 7 pm is "Fantatic" (Charlie Nguyen, Dir., 2016), about at rocker who sells records in Saigon and goes back to the golden age of rock music via time machine.

Other International Films 
On Sunday at 5:30 pm is "Lipstick Under My Burkha (Alankrita Shrivastava, Dir. 2016) a film from India that has faced censorship problems in its native India.

On is a film that has been apparently banned in China: "Plastic China, Jiuliang Wang, Dir., 2016). This festival winning Asian international feature shows a destitute family eking out a living processing plastic that comes from your recycling in western countries like the U.S.

For details on these and other films and on ticketing, see: OC Festival.

-- Daniel C. Tsang

Sunday, April 23, 2017

"Dateline-Saigon": When Presidents Routinely Lied

It is not just today that there is "fake news".  In fact, as the U.S. engaged in a brutal war in Southeast Asia, U.S. Presidents and generals routinely lied.  And the mainstream media eventually caught on.

Dateline Trailer 6-27-16 from William Anderson on Vimeo.

"Dateline - Saigon" is an excellent documentary (directed by lawyer Thomas D. Herman) that focuses on five western journalists based in Saigon in the early days of the Vietnam War or what the Vietnamese called the "American War".

Mostly early-career professionals the men (yes all (white) men portrayed), were brash, competitive and determined.  By daring to go into the field in South Vietnam, and speaking directly to the GIs, these reporters and photographers (before the advent of saturation news) were able to find what the U.S. and the South Vietnamese military were doing on the ground, killing civilians, burning down villages and covering up all that.

The film does not avoid taking sides.  The U.S. Government is slammed for spouting Cold War anti-communist rhetoric and the domino theory (that the fall of South Vietnam would lead to other dominoes falling).   South Vienamese soldiers are dismissed as weak and ineffective, while the enemy is explained as disciplined and determined.  The Saigon regime of  Ngô Đình Diệm is dismissed as Catholic from the north when the majority of the population in Vietnam is Buddhist.  And the notorious "Dragon Lady" Madame Ngô Đình Nhu appears in archival film footage speaking disdainfully of monks "barbecuing" themselves. 

One of the Pulitzer Prize-winning journalists portrayed,  Macolm Browne, indeed took the shocking 1963 photograph of a monk, Thích Quảng Đức, lit up in flames, a photo that was spashed on front-pages all over the world.  Focusing on Browne, the film also delves into the work of other Pulitzer-winning journalists:  Peter Arnett, David Halberstam, Neil Sheehan, and Horst Faas.

Another Pulitizer-Prize winning photographer from the Vietnam War period is listed in the credits, but is not featured, unfortunately, in the documentary.  AP photographer Nick Ut, who just retired weeks ago, after over five decades with AP, was actually hired by AP photographer Horst Faas in 1966 and took the iconic photo of the Vietnamese girl burning with napalm running naked down a road after her village was burned down in 1972.

Director Herman observe as Peter Arnett expounds on the media today and before. Photo credit: © Daniel C. Tsang 2017

Sam Waterson's strong voice narrates or the journalists themselves speak in retrospect in this excellent film that took some 16 years to bring to the screen.  Peter Arnett (AP reporter then, more known today as a CNN reporter), who is from OC, attended the first screening, at the 2017 Newport Beach Film Festival, and spoke at the Q&A, saying that the U.S. military now no longer allows the media to freely cover war zones today.   A second festival screening is coming up:  Wednesday 26 April 2017, at Island Cinemas in Newport Beach, at 5:45 pm.  -- Daniel C. Tsang.

Note: The documentary is not sympathetic to the Saigon regime's point of view of course.